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Learning English from Cartoons

Summary:
I’m coming off a very successful Mont Pelerin Society meeting at Hoover that started Wednesday night and went to last night. One of my pleasures at such events is meeting new people and hearing their stories. At breakfast on Thursday, I was sitting with Robert Skidelsky, the famous biographer of Keynes (a real sweetheart, by the way–Skidelsky, not Keynes) and across from a young woman who had grown up in Romania. My friend and co-author Charley Hooper commented to her on how good her English was. She thanked him and said that she had learned it from watching cartoons. This was when she was 6, which would have made it about 1995 or 1996. She said there were no subtitles and so she had to learn English if she wanted to understand them. The cartoons, she said, were

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Learning English from Cartoons

I’m coming off a very successful Mont Pelerin Society meeting at Hoover that started Wednesday night and went to last night. One of my pleasures at such events is meeting new people and hearing their stories. At breakfast on Thursday, I was sitting with Robert Skidelsky, the famous biographer of Keynes (a real sweetheart, by the way–Skidelsky, not Keynes) and across from a young woman who had grown up in Romania. My friend and co-author Charley Hooper commented to her on how good her English was. She thanked him and said that she had learned it from watching cartoons. This was when she was 6, which would have made it about 1995 or 1996. She said there were no subtitles and so she had to learn English if she wanted to understand them. The cartoons, she said, were typically from Hanna-Barbera but she also watched Bugs Bunny.

Her name is Georgiana Constantin-Parke.

She told me that when she was about 6, she was watching a show on TV with her parents that had subtitles in Romanian and she was laughing at all the right parts. Her father asked her how she could follow it because she couldn’t read Romanian. She said she wasn’t reading Romanian–she was understanding what the actors were saying in English. He couldn’t believe her. So he had her turn her back to the TV and tell him what was being said. Of course, she was able to do so.

I got Georgiana’s permission to tell the story. She said, though, that this was fairly common. She had friends in Romania at the time who learned English the same way. “That makes it an even better story,” I told her.

David Henderson
David Henderson is a British economist. He was the Head of the Economics and Statistics Department at the OECD in 1984–1992. Before that he worked as an academic economist in Britain, first at Oxford (Fellow of Lincoln College) and later at University College London (Professor of Economics, 1975–1983); as a British civil servant (first as an Economic Advisor in HM Treasury, and later as Chief Economist in the Ministry of Aviation); and as a staff member of the World Bank (1969–1975). In 1985 he gave the BBC Reith Lectures, which were published in the book Innocence and Design: The Influence of Economic Ideas on Policy (Blackwell, 1986).

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